Labor, Dem Leaders Urge Support for Brown, Party

STRUTHERS, Ohio – Organized labor and Democratic Party leaders put trade issues at the top of reasons why workers need to support U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown in his re-election bid and Democrats in down-ticket races Nov. 6.

Members of United Steel Workers Local 9401 and Communications Workers of America District 4 heard from USW 9401 President Keith King, Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras and state Sen. Joe Schiavoni at a press event Thursday.

About 20 members of the unions turned out at Joe Clark Hall, where King called on workers to do everything they can to support Brown leading up to Election Day.

Workers in the Mahoning Valley have “no greater ally” than Brown, who “has earned his re-election bid for all the work he has done for the aluminum and steel industries, and for support of Ohio jobs that are impacted by unfair trade,” said King, who represents more than 400 workers at Astro Shapes Inc.

“We see it here in the Valley and across the state – unfair foreign competition taking a toll on our company, our jobs and our livelihoods,” he said. “Brown gets it. He understands the position that we are in and the fight that lays ahead.”

Brown has continued to call on President Donald Trump’s administration to take action on “China’s cheating that has slammed our aluminum and steel industries” and to work on long-term solutions to aluminum and steel overcapacity, King said.

The senator also backed the auto industry when it was “on the brink of collapse” a decade ago, he said. This summer, when General Motors announced it would build the Chevrolet Blazer in Mexico on the same day it began the layoff of the second shift at its Lordstown plant, Brown called on GM to use the windfall it received from tax cuts to retool the Lordstown plant for new production and asked Trump to intervene on behalf of local workers and the community.

In August, Brown also introduced the American Cars, American Jobs Act, which would temporarily provide car buyers with a $3,500 discount when they purchase or enter into a five-year lease for one of 100 cars and trucks manufactured in America, including all passenger vehicles made in Ohio.

Brown’s opponent, U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-16 Ohio, said the legislation would “never get passed” and was “the six-year magic act that Brown comes up with.”

Although Astro Shapes has had “a pretty busy schedule up until now,” the plant is beginning to feel the effect of the tariffs Trump put in place earlier this year, King acknowledged.

Betras staunchly defended Brown as “the working man’s senator,” who has voted consistently against trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement – which he opposed while serving in the U.S. House of Representatives – he says have cost jobs in the Valley and across Ohio.

“Who in this room doesn’t realize that NAFTA was a gut punch to us after they deindustrialized our steel mills and built up the steel mills in Germany and Japan? Who in here doesn’t realize what NAFTA did to us?” the party chairman asked. “Sherrod Brown voted against it and fought against it.” One of the first things Brown did after Trump was elected was to offer his help to renegotiate the trade pact.

In contrast, Renacci, before Trump’s election, said he supported free trade around the world and has “no idea … the devastation that unfair trade has had in places like the Mahoning Valley,” Betras said. Renacci also voted for “unfair trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Columbia.” Unlike Brown, who worked to crack down on Chinese currency manipulation, he said Renacci passed on the opportunity to do so.

Betras also called on the workers to vote in the races such as Ohio governor that will determine who draws congressional and state legislative district lines following the 2020 Census.

“You all have family and friends and we all know someone who voted for Trump. Well, Donald Trump is not on the menu this time. Sherrod Brown is on the menu and he has always been the working man’s fighter. We can’t let him down.”

Schiavoni, who is leaving the Ohio Senate after a decade because of term limits, called on each of the workers to “be a soldier for Sherrod Brown” and to be prepared to discuss the contrast between the candidates.

If Renacci, gubernatorial nominee Mike DeWine and other GOP candidates win next month, organized labor “will be weakened to the point that you won’t be able to sustain the barrage anymore,” Schiavoni warned.

“I’ve seen it happen bit by bit by bit,” he said.

Pictured: United Steel Workers Local 9401 President Keith King (at podium) and state Sen. Joe Schiavoni.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.